10 Reconstructions of Historical Figure’s Faces


A set of bones found under a parking lot several years ago that were suspected to be Richard III have been confirmed as the lost king, and forensic artists have reconstructed the man’s face from a mold of the skull and DNA from his bones. The face shows a 32 year old man with a pleasant face, unlike Shakespeare’s portrayal of him that casts him as a child-murdering villain.



That brings us to Shakespeare himself, whose face was reconstructed using a death mask found in Germany. This, of course, may not be him, since the death mask has not been absolutely proved to be him, but the model shows a possible Shakespeare as a much more quiet and less passionate figure than he is portrayed today. His face also hints that he may have suffered from cancer.



This is the King Tutankhamun, the famous 19 year old “boy king” who had buckteeth, a receding chin, and a slim nose, all traits of his Irish DNA.



Queen Nefertiti, another famous Egyptian, was tentatively discovered by archaeologist Johann Fletcher. To make sure, two British forensic experts took models of the skull, and, working blindly, produced this model. If you are familiar with the history of Queen Nefertiti, it strongly resembles the bust of the queen, proving without a doubt that Johann Fletcher had found Nefertiti’s tomb.



Cleopatra and her half-sister Arsinoe IV hated each other so much that Cleopatra had her sister murdered. When archaeologists found her tomb, they took DNA samples which showed that she was more European that African. Her face was digitally reconstructed using laser scans of her skull.



Nicolaus Copernicus, a famous philosopher, astronomer, and scientist, died in 1543 at age 70 in an unmarked grave. Scientists found his body in a Polish church by comparing his bones’ DNA to a hair found in one of his books, and Polish police made a model of his head, making sure to include his broken nose and scar above his left eye.

This is a forensic expert’s blind model of J.S. Bach, famous musician and composer. As you can see, the head and the bust made during his lifetime are very similar (the nose is a little off), showing the incredible accuracy and workmanship of today’s forensic artists.
Dante Alighieri is most famous for writing The Divine Comedy. Depictions of the man show him as being very ugly, with a pointy chin, buggy eyes, and an enormous hooked nose. This image of him, made from his measurements taken in 1921, paint a much milder portrait of Dante.


King Henri IV’s disembodied and mummified head had been lost to history until just a few years ago, when a tax collector found the horrifying thing up in his attic. Good thing he didn’t throw it out, because with the head, we are able to recreate what he looked like when he was killed in 1610 at the age of 56.


Stolen in 1087 and placed in a church in Bari, Italy, the remains of St. Nicholas, or Santa Claus, have kept their secrets as to what this famous figure looked like. The reproduction reveals a small man – maybe only 5’6″ – but with a huge, masculine head and a strong jaw. It appears that he also had a broken nose, possibly from a Roman soldier.


(via Mental Floss)



7 thoughts on “10 Reconstructions of Historical Figure’s Faces

  1. Very interesting….. If they ever get to make a movie about Henry IV, I’m guessing the talent scouts will approach Robin Williams for the role. But maybe it’s only me who sees a resemblance.

  2. James Cromwell? Never heard of him, but I rarely watch anything that isn’t a documentary or news so that’s no surprise. But just a moment ago I searched for him in google, and agree that there is indeed a strong resemblance.

    1. Yes, I had to look him up too, since I heard of the resemblance from someone else. I recognized him from being in Babe the Pig, which was a movie I used to watch when I was five or six, but I don’t know of anything he has done more recently. Apparently, many of the busts in the article pose a resemblance to modern actors, or rather visa versa.

  3. If you’re not familiar with the story, King Tut died around 1325 B.C. at the approximate age of 19. Discovered in 1922, the mummy was X-rayed about thirty years ago. With the advent of advanced medical scanning technology, the antiquities council in Egypt commissioned three international teams to create a likeness from a set of scans. The teams worked independently. The teams from France and Egypt knew the body was that of Tut. The U.S. team did not. The Americans and French did their interpretation using a plastic skull, while the Egyptians directly analyzed the CT scans. The Americans produced a plaster model, the French a silicone one.

  4. Just thinking about the “nice person” face for Richard III not looking anything like the “nasty person” version of him that Shakespeare provided us, we shouldn’t fall for the idea that a person’s face has some inherent accuracy in portraying their necessarily complex emotional life. That is a pseudoscience called phrenology, if memory serves. Indeed, it does serve. Wiki has a page describing it as a pseudoscience, while the second from the top of a google search page insists it is a legitimate science. I’m opting for the former view. If the latter was true, then serial and mass murderers would never be able to charm their victims. They would be incapable of being friendly. This is clearly not the case.

    My guess is that the bard and people in his time probably had a clearer memory of what happened in the earlier time of Richard III.

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